I was pointing out the fact that while the western farmer is asking for action one minister of the cabinet says he is going to get action and the Prime Minister, who ought to know, says that the matter is still under consideration.
I am glad this amendment has been introduced so that western members may be able to face a jury of western farmers on their votes on the amendment. The hon. member speaks with disparagement of a jury of farmers. If the farmers of western Canada get an opportunity as a jury they will speak as they did in Winnipeg, as they did in Brandon and other constituencies in the recent by-elections.
-I again ask that the government give serious consideration to this matter and at this session provide what is asked for in the amendment. I care not whether it be an advance to the extent of 75 per cent of the value or whether it be the suggestion I put before the house some time ago of $10 per acre. The farmers of western Canada today are asking for assistance and they have a right to receive it. What has happened in connection with the lack of storage facilities is and has been the responsibility of this government. Every minister of the government knew as far back as last June or July how serious the situation would be with the elevators in western Canada glutted with wheat that was unsaleable by reason of its low grade. Week after week the Minister of Trade and1 Commerce has been advising the people of Canada in the most optimistic manner possible that all was well. I have before me the Western Producer of November 29. It tells the story in so far as the wheat pool is concerned. It has this to say:
Although harvesting operations have been virtually at a standstill during all of November, country elevator congestion has shown little improvement during the month. At the end of last week stocks in store in Saskatchewan pool country elevators totalled 39,926,000 bushels as compared with 40,363,000 bushels one week ago and 41,589,000 bushels on October 31.
In other words, the situation has improved but little.
Five hundred and eighty-seven pool elevators were reported filled with grain last week. A week earlier there were 606 plugged elevators and at October 31, when congestion was at its peak, the number was 663.
I ask that something be done in this matter in order to raise the morale of the western farmer. But the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) has said over and over again in this house that all is well. Word has gone forth and every member from Saskatchewan must have received letters from his constituents pointing out the seriousness of the situation, paiticularly on Canadian Pacific
1552 HOUSE OF
The Address-Mr. Diefenbaker lines. Mention has been made by several hon. members of the fact that the situation on Canadian Pacific lines is serious. It is as serious today as it was several weeks ago. Farmers in those areas where the quota has been increased found that elevators became filled. As a result many of them have been unable to market their wheat, and in a large majority of cases they have been able to market only ten or fifteen per cent.
This is a most serious situation that faces us. All we are asking, and all that those who come from the prairies have continued to ask, is that something be done to assure that congestion shall be dissipated as far as possible and that provision be made to transfer tough grain to the drying plants. We ask also that advances be made for grain on the farms, both for storage and as a payment in accordance with the amendment. These are the things the western farmer is demanding. These are the things that I believe are worthy of the consideration of this house.
In order to fill the two vacancies which I believe still exist on the wheat board I suggest that appointments be made of actual producers. Farmers are requesting that there be a larger producer representation on the board. Nothing would be more beneficial than for the Minister of Agriculture to insist that western farmers in production and recognized as leaders be appointed to the two vacancies on the wheat board.
Second, the amendment refers to a temporary situation created by the early snows of this year. Another thing the western farmer is asking is that wheat sold for domestic consumption be not sold at the present rate whereby the farmer loses from 40 to 50 cents per bushel, but that it be sold at a pai'ity price.
Third, in order to assure parity the farmers are asking that the Agricultural Prices Support Act be amended to provide floor prices for cereal grains. The hon. member for Assiniboia (Mr. Argue) referred to the plebiscite in Manitoba and indicated that farmers generally were satisfied. My own impression is that farmers want a larger direct producer representation on the board, and they want parity prices for domestic sale. If these two things were granted at least two major subjects of discontent would be removed.
Having said that I cannot take any other stand than to support the amendment. It provides an opportunity to hon. members to call upon the government for action. We have waited from week to week since this session began in the hope that something would be done to alleviate the conditions that
prevail on the prairies. It is only a matter of two weeks at the very most until the end of the session, yet we had a statement today by the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) that held out no hope that action will be taken at the present session. On the other hand we had the statement made in Calgary on Friday by the Minister of Trade and Commerce that action will be taken. My hope is that at this time the wishes of the Minister of Trade and Commerce will take precedence over the unhopeful statement made today by the Prime Minister and that before this session is over legislation will be introduced to provide for an advance payment to farmers, first, who have their wheat under the snow and, second, who have completed their threshing operations but are unable to market a reasonable portion of their grain because of the freight car congestions.
Mr. Speaker, as I sat and listened to hon. members speak, I wondered how soon this debate will close. There are many important resolutions on the order paper. Wheat is important, but some of these resolutions concern matters just as important or perhaps more important than wheat. I am not a bit concerned about what the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) did or did not say. He is not in the house this evening, but when he comes back he will be able to answer for himself and what he says will be a credit to the government.
Mr. Speaker, the amendment before the house reads:
This house regrets, however, that Your Excellency's advisers have failed to make provision for the immediate payment to producers of 75 per cent of the initial price of farm stored grain.
When the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) answered the hon. member for Assiniboia (Mr. Argue) as he did this afternoon I was very disappointed. I had read the statements carried in the daily press of western Canada, particularly the Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Tribune, which statements have been quoted in this debate already, in which the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe), the minister responsible for the handling and marketing of wheat in this country, is reported to have stated emphatically at a meeting in Calgary that the farmers could expect aid early in 1952 and that legislation would be introduced during this session of parliament to provide for that financial assistance. When the Prime Minister was asked this afternoon if that statement was correct his answer was "No", and he went on to say that the matter was under consideration and he could make no further statement at this time.
That is a strange set of circumstances in a democracy such at this. As I say, I was very disappointed. As has been so well pointed out by previous speakers, this is a real emergency for many thousands of farmers on the prairies. If you could travel out among these people you would find that many are having to depend upon local people who are ready to extend credit in order that they may provide for their families this winter. This, in turn, has placed these people in an extremely unsatisfactory financial position. These grain producers find themselves in a very difficult set of circumstances. I am amazed that people are not so much concerned about the plight of these farmers at this time, because it is serious. I believe this resolution is well worded.
For some years past I have travelled into the United States of America studying the operation and administration of their agricultural set-up, and the manner in which that government guaranteed to wheat producers what is termed 90 per cent of parity. Today a farmer can obtain on properly stored grain a loan of up to 90 per cent of parity which, for this year's crop, is on the basis of $2.18 per bushel. Compared to what we receive for grain, that is a good price. As I understand the legislation, coupled with that the farmers are allowed a storage fee until next April. After receiving payment the farmer can decide that the government can have the wheat, or he can repay the loan and carry on. While the United States operates under the international wheat agreement just as we do, their farmers are subsidized for the difference between the world price and the price under the international wheat agreement. It costs the treasury of the United States a considerable sum to pay that difference.
The previous speaker has pointed out that, notwithstanding the many millions of dollars the western farmers have lost in the past four or five years under agreements concluded by this government, they are today subsidizing the consumers of Canada by over 50 cents a bushel. Like the hon. member for Acadia (Mr. Quelch) I am one of those who believe that the consumers of Canada should pay the prevailing price for class II wheat rather than the price set under this international wheat agreement. These wheat producers have had a very unfair burden saddled upon them by the government of the day. I want to protest as strongly as I can. I have raised this issue in the house at every opportunity, but instead of the price getting closer to what it should be the gap is widening as time passes. These people should not be called upon to subsidize the consumer.
I should like to say a word on a point which was raised by the hon. member for Melfort
The Address-Mr. J. A. Ross (Mr. Wright). It is connected with grain drying equipment. I happen to live close to the North Dakota border and some of the farmers along that border have this grain drying equipment. As was pointed out, this machine costs between $12,000 and $14,000. It was doing a satisfactory job in taking the moisture out of that grain. Like the hon. member I, too, had correspondence from co-operatives and individuals requesting me to interview the Department of National Revenue about obtaining this equipment from the United States. Apparently Minneapolis is the chief centre turning out this machine, and I understand it is not available in Canada. I carried on some negotiations with the deputy minister and other members of the department. Finally the minister made a statement in this house pointing out that he was prepared to recommend to cabinet that these machines be brought in on a lease basis for about one-sixtieth of the duty per month. The duty on these machines amounts to 22J per cent plus a sales tax of 10 per cent, and all that can be set aside if an individual imports this equipment. When the minister made his statement I asked him, and it is on Hansard, whether the same consideration would be extended to a co-operative or a corporation, and he said no. I believe that is quite improper. Some consideration should be given to the cost of the machine and the amount of grain that can be cleaned, because it would have to be a co-operative effort.
Personally I have some fault to find with the distribution of feed wheat and the low grade wheat from last year's crop. I believe the asking price for that grade of grain has been out of all proportion to the price obtained for milling qualities of wheat. Because of this asking price there was a large carry-over of this grade of wheat as of July 31 of this year. I think the board, on behalf of the government, should have made a greater effort to get rid of that low grade wheat for feed purposes, thus making more storage space available for the milling grades of wheat today. For two years now this has been an extremely difficult problem in the handling and storing of grain. For some reason, in our province and the provinces to the west there has been much greater difficulty in getting a proper allocation of box cars on the Canadian Pacific lines than on the Canadian National lines. I do not know why that situation has existed, but it has been difficult. While I was not prepared to speak on this subject at this time, I want to say that it is a matter of deep concern. I cannot impress too strongly upon the government the difficulty for many thousands of farmers in the prairie provinces. A loan could easily be made to these farmers to
The Address-Mr. Low cover operating expenses and help them provide for their families during the coming winter. I cannot see why this amendment is unsound. It mentions 75 per cent of the value of the grain in storage, and I do not believe there is any great gamble in that. True enough it would be a considerable undertaking from an administrative point of view, but I would support the amendment.
Let me repeat that when you have prosperous agriculture in this country, then everyone else does well. It is true that today many people are prosperous, but these farmers are suffering great hardships. I would hope that the government would decide to accept this amendment. Again I say how disappointed I was at the difference in the attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) and that of the responsible minister as reported in the press over the week end1.
I have waited to give the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) and the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) an opportunity to say something about this resolution. I thought it was a subject of such great importance that at least the Minister of Agriculture would have made an announcement of some sort. Of course the Prime Minister came in and the Minister of Agriculture stayed put.
I imagine it is occurring to the Prime Minister that he should brief his boys before they go off on a trip. I know that if I had had experiences similar to those of the Prime Minister during the past two or three weeks I would get them together and say: Boys, where are you going? We are going up to Calgary to see what is going on up there. Why? We want to see what the people are doing and find out just what the crop situation is. It might be that incidentally we will have a word to say about the by-election. All right, but maybe you had better let me know what you are going to say when you go out there, because I want to be able to say the same thing in parliament; because if this sort of thing goes on there will not be any such thing as cabinet solidarity. I would suggest, Mr. Speaker that it might be a right good thing to have this amendment debated thoroughly and perhaps to have it held over until Wednesday of this week, possibly until the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) gets back, so the Prime Minister can call his men together and decide just exactly what is what. Then maybe we can get an intelligent vote on the matter. Or in the alternative, perhaps the Prime Minister or one of his ministers can make an announcement in this house, where announcements of the kind should be made and where we can [Mr. Ross (Souris).I
give them the proper applause. You see, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Trade and Commerce is away out west, and he has made an announcement of great importance to the farmers of western Canada; but we fellows here cannot pat him on the back. I do not think that the situation is fair and just to the members from western Canada; not at all.
As I say, I was quite disappointed that we did not hear from the front benches tonight something in connection with such important legislation. I look upon this matter as being of tremendous importance. What has happened is this, Mr. Speaker. Our big-hearted Minister of Trade and Commerce went out west; and whatever he went out for, he did happen to see what the farmers are suffering today. They doubtless took him out into some of these fields around Calgary.
And doubtless they showed him, field after field, thousands of acres of wonderful crop in the swath and down on the ground. No doubt they showed him crops that were matted, twisted and pressed into the soil by a succession of snow, rain, frost and what not, that they probably will not be able to harvest until spring, if they get it harvested then. They probably took the Minister of Trade and Commerce out to some of the elevators and showed him exactly what is going on there, and what a terrific problem these elevators have to handle the wheat successfully, to give the farmers storage space for their tremendous crops, and to process the grain without grain dryers. They see it rotting, matting together, musting and I suppose much of it will be rendered unfit for milling purposes.
Then they probably took the Minister of Trade and Commerce out to talk to some of the farmers individually. When I say "they" I am speaking now of the boys in Calgary West. They wanted him to see the facts, and they talked to some of these farmers out there individually and the farmers told this story: Look here, Mr. Minister, we have got to get a fence fixed up here, and a good one. You fellows are just about to let the calves out. There is quite a gap here, the biggest gap that you have left. The gap is created by the fact that our farmers throughout this area just have not anything in their pockets to jingle, and the reason is that they have not been able to market any of their crops this year. Not having been able to market any of their crops they cannot look forward to giving you fellows any help out in Calgary
West or anywhere else for that matter. Furthermore, if we are going to keep those doggone Tories out of here, you have to do something and do it fast.
So, Mr. Speaker, as I said, the Minister of Trade and Commerce is there. He is a big-heartedi fellow and his sympathies would be right there with the farmers. It is natural that, when they got him back into the meeting place that night, he should stand up on the platform and say to that audience: We have to do something for these farmers, and I am going to suggest right now that this government, at the session that is now going on down in Ottawa, put through a bill to provide for farm storage advances and get it out before the first of the year or before Christmas, because you have to get some Christmas presents.
In all seriousness, Mr. Speaker, I am quite sure that the Minister of Trade and Commerce on this trip saw a great many things out there that he did not previously even imagine. I am quite certain in my own mind that in whatever he said out there he was giving expression to what he thought ought to be done. That is the important thing. He stated what he thought ought to be done. It may have been interpreted by the press as an expression of government policy. I am not saying anything as to that. But the fact remains that out of his firsthand knowledge -as a result of seeing conditions, not just hearing about them-he made up his mind that something ought to be done, he made that statement, and the press carried it.
I think the Minister of Trade and Commerce had a great deal of courage, even if he did not get in touch with the boys back home and the boss, and I commend him for it. But there is this that must be said, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Trade and Commerce is right, and the boys back here are not up in the harness by any means. Our people out west are facing a disastrous situation. It is not that we love to come and just plead for handouts; not at all. But how in the world can we, the farmers of western Canada, be expected to do the job that it is expected we will do, in producing all the food that will be required by our Canadian people and fill the demands of the people of other nations, unless facilities are set up to save what we produce?
Just imagine the situation. Right there in the province of Alberta we had prospects of a 170 million bushel wheat crop this fall. It looked to be the most beautiful prospect we have had in twenty-five or thirty years. Then disaster overtook us; and that was not all. It was not just disaster caused by the
The Address-Mr. Low elements. We found that another disaster or two befell us. When we did get the crop down, the elevator space was soon plugged and the farmers could not get any more in. Then they had to thresh their crops in the fields and put them up in conical piles, or into straw stacks, or surround them with snow fences or almost anything to keep them together, pleading for cars all the time. There again was another disaster. Something happened so that the cars did not get out there with which to ship this grain. In many areas -and I will take my own area, the Peace river country, as an example-there were millions of bushels of excellent milling wheat. What this country needed was milling wheat, and what the other countries needed was milling wheat. Cargo vessels were coming into the harbour at Vancouver and in the eastern part of this continent ready for milling wheat, and they could not get it. They had to sail away without it because the wheat was not there in port. The question is, why was it not there? Cars were being used for something else. I do not know what it was.
The people in the Peace river country were not able to get their wheat out-that is, that milling wheat they had taken to the elevators -and they were not able to get much in because the storage space up in that country is not great. Somehow or other few people have got into their heads the fact that this Peace river country has now grown to be a great inland empire, one of the great food-producing areas of the world. They also forget that it is four or five hundred miles removed from any storage centres, and that there is today a great long back haul of five hundred miles in order to get the grain on to the main line so it can be shipped to the coast. We were completely forgotten this year and the wheat lay there. We complained about it; we pleaded for cars and for storage space; but there was nothing doing. So today the farmers are not able to get anything for their crops, to provide for their families, to pay their debts and get materials and machinery repaired and ready for another crop season. This does not give them very much hope or optimism.
I suggest that the government's responsibility is twofold. In the first place, I think the government should have been looking ahead to years like this, and should have provided strategically placed storage facilities. They should have been assisting farmers to provide storage facilities on their own farms. In the Peace river country I think we have a logical claim for a $1 million or $2 million government elevator for storage and for processing purposes, to see that our grain up-in that country is not wasted; that when we
The Address-Mr. Low *do produce these big crops we can get them into the elevators so that they may be saved and not wasted. Any grain that comes into elevators with a moisture content of 17, 18 or 20 per cent is in danger. Everybody knows that. I understand that this year a good [DOT]deal of it is running up to 25 or 28 per cent moisture content. Well, it seems tragic, in the light of the world need for food products, to let that grain remain in that condition and take a chance on it spoiling so nobody can use it, especially in a country like this where we have these unusual seasons and this year so little milling wheat. Therefore it seems to me the government's responsibility is to see to it that complete storage is arranged for, and that the farmers are assisted to get storage facilities on their own farms.
It seems to me the second responsibility is this. Whenever disasters like this overtake the farmers, the government should get in there as quickly as possible and see to it that some advance is made on properly stored grain, as is called for in this resolution, so the farmers can pay their obligations, take care of their families and look forward to a crop year next year free perhaps from encumbrances, free from worry. The hon. member for Acadia (Mr. Quelch) has just reminded me of something else that is tremendously important in this whole business. The man who is usually forgotten in all of these tragic years is the unsecured creditor, the local merchant. He is the fellow who takes it in the neck, because he has been financing the farmers in the communities pretty well through the whole year, expecting that when the crop was sold he would be able to get some return. Well, where are the small merchants this year? They are holding the bag. A good many of them are going -out of business, Mr. Speaker. I am told there are more business failures in Canada just now than there were during the hungry thirties. Why? Simply because of the tragic [DOT]situation that has developed in western *Canada. These farmers simply cannot get money for their crops; therefore they cannot pay their obligations. Prices are high. There are restrictions on supplies, restrictions on credit purchases. All that is hitting the storekeepers and hitting them hard. They are the backbone of our communities, and we cannot overlook them. I plead with the government to take this appeal that is being made most seriously, and get in and formulate a policy and announce it so that our people in western Canada will not be kept so confused.
I can imagine what is going to appear in the press tomorrow morning. They will have the statement of the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) in one column and what the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) said today in another column, and the farmers of western Canada will feel that they are meeting themselves coming back. Believe me, Mr. Speaker, there will be a great many of the juries of farmers referred to by the hon. member for Coast-Capilano (Mr. Sinclair), a good many juries around the hot stove in these little business places that I have been talking about who will weigh his statement well and bear in mind that there was some sort of little aspersion oast by what he said. I will tell you right now that the hon. member for Coast-Capilano has never been able to get together a jury that will do a better job than a jury of farmers. If any of the people out in the west country that I know about are called upon to be tried before their peers it is usually the farmers that they look to for justice, and they get it.
Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will take up as the first item the resolution in the name of the Minister of Transport to provide a deep waterway between Montreal and Lake Erie and to create a corporation to be called "the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority"; then third reading of Bill No. 24, to amend the Public Printing and Stationery Act; Bill No. 30, to amend the Supreme Court Act and Bill No. 31, to amend the Exchequer Court Act.
Then we will take up the resolution in the name of the Secretary of State to amend the Civil Service Act, and the other resolution in the name of the same minister to amend the Dominion Elections Act.